than half (58%) of smartphone owners, or a third of all adult U.S. shoppers, regularly showroom and buy products from online retailers while in brick-and-mortar stores.
That finding comes
from a new study by Texas-based Parago, which develops incentive programs for clients, including Staples, Sprint and The Home Depot.
Showrooming -- the practice of examining products
in physical stores before shopping for the same items for less online -- has gained much attention in retail circles in recent years with rise of smartphone-wielding consumers able to comparison-shop
easily on their devices. The study, based on a survey of 1,043 smartphone users in June, found showrooming up 400% from a year ago.
Worse yet for traditional retailers, the study
showed arch nemesis Amazon is the main way that people choose to compare prices; it was twice as popular as Google for that purpose. A price difference of as little as $5 on a $50 item can tip the
balance in Amazon’s favor. Furthermore, nearly half (46%) of survey participants were Amazon Prime members, with special perks and free shipping.
Among those who showroom,
two-thirds do so weekly and 26% monthly. Entertainment, electronics and mobile technology, and clothing were the categories in which people most often scoped out goods in-store before buying them
online. Forty-one percent compare products in every price range, no matter how small.
While price was cited by 46% as the most important factor in comparing products on smartphones
in-store, customer reviews (28%) and expert reviews (13%) also influenced decisions. Comments by friends on social media sites, by contrast, didn’t play much of a role in mobile searches.
The Parago report suggested that retailer steps to combat showrooming, such as special sales, exclusive merchandise and upgraded customer service haven’t done much to slow the
trend. But one strategy that shows promise is offering customers a price-match guarantee with Amazon. A majority of shoppers said they would opt to buy goods at a brick-and-mortar store over Amazon
with an in-store rebate equal to the Amazon price.
That finding held true across different product categories and price levels and for consumers of different income groups. Parago noted
dynamic pricing rebates provide healthier margins than instant discounts. Exactly how great a threat retailers perceive showrooming to be isn't clear.
A separate study last month by
e-commerce software provider EPiServer indicated that the practice was not a major concern among retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and other companies surveyed. Among those who planned to embrace
mobile in the coming year, only 2% aim to combat showrooming. There was less focus on using mobile for sales and more for customers.